Farm-to-cup cooperative keeps profits in the farmer’s pocket
Caterina Yac is a single, fiercely independent woman who owns a three-acre farm at an elevation of 4,000+ feet in Santa Clara Laguna, Guatemala. Her main crop is coffee, though she also grows a variety of other crops to eat and barter with neighbors. When she brews some of her homegrown coffee to offer to guests, she’s probably not thinking about you, but when you brew some of her coffee, you’ll likely be thinking about her. That’s because her face appears square on the front of the bag of beans, along with information about the country, region and family farm they were grown on.
You’ll find Caterina’s portrait next to dozens of others, along with their carefully grown and roasted coffees, about 2,500 miles from her farm at a humble cafe, next to a yogurt shop in East Sacramento. Pachamama Coffee Cooperative Cafe, located at 3644 J Street, was built by the Pachamama Coffee Cooperative. Caterina is a member of the Cooperative, which makes her a shop owner too. Though owned entirely by its member-farmers, Pachamama Coffee Cooperative is helmed by CEO Thaleon Tremain, who became aware of the disconnect between the work farmers do and the price they receive for their goods, while he was a volunteer with the Peace Corps in Bolivia.
By utilizing a Cooperative model, instead of just acting as a broker to the existing market, Pachamama is able to ensure that the farmers can keep the bulk of the profits from their hard work. In fact, Pachamama is the only American coffee company owned 100 percent by its farmers. After growing the Cooperative to over 142,000 farmers in Peru, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Mexico, and Ethiopia with roughly 10,000 pounds of coffee sold per month, Tremain and the farmers (via their elected boards of governors) decided to utilize a Kickstarter campaign that allowed them to open a roasting operation and information center at Pachamama’s headquarters in Midtown (919 20th St.).
The Cooperative then decided to build a cafe to showcase their single-origin coffees in green, roasted and brewed form. Formerly a cheese shop, the location sits almost directly opposite a Peet’s Coffee and a Starbucks on J Street in East Sacramento. Pachamama’s loyal fans, however, wouldn’t even think about crossing the street to patronize the competitors.
Amanda Mays, a Pachamama customer sipping from a mug of coffee grown by farmers in Pueblo Nuevo, Nicaragua, summed it up thusly, “When you choose a farm-to-cup coffee shop like Pachamama, you’re rewarding the efforts of individual farmers instead of just rewarding corporate shareholders. And when you drink single-origin coffees, you can taste the love the farmers put into their labor, and the soil the coffee is grown in.”
Just as importantly, the coffees produced by Pachamama are delicious. In the East Sacramento Cafe, you can sample a variety of coffees that are made by the cup, including their Ethiopia Yirgacheffe, which was awarded a high score of 93 from Ken David’s Coffee Review, the world’s leading coffee guide. David describes it as “sweet, intricate, lavishly floral. Complex floral notes (lavender, lilac), honey, sweet citrus, a crisp base of fresh-cut cedar and roasted cacao nib in aroma and cup. Vibrant, juicy acidity; light though silky mouthfeel. Cedar and cacao nib in particular lead into a dry, lightly flavor-saturated finish.” You can also opt for one of the Cafe’s espresso drinks, crafted expertly by their baristas, who will answer any questions you have about the aforementioned beans available for purchase.
If you like iced coffee, order a Nitro Cold Brew, coffee that has been ground coarsely and steeped for a day in cold water, which is then kegged, cooled, and injected with nitrogen. Finally it’s poured into a glass with no ice, giving it the cascading look and mouthfeel of a well-poured Guinness Stout. If you’re already well caffeinated, they offer a selection of teas and locally made pastries.
Pachamama is open seven days a week, and you can purchase their coffees at the roaster, the cafe or online. They also offer a monthly coffee delivery service, which was the first of its kind. But don’t be intimidated by other tasters describing hints of cedar and saturated finishes. All you have to do is enjoy a great, and just, cup of joe.